Traumatic brain injury among newly admitted adolescents in the New York city jail system

J Adolesc Health. 2014 May;54(5):615-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.12.013. Epub 2014 Feb 14.


Purpose: Relatively little is known about the prevalence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among adolescents who come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Methods: We undertook screening for TBI among newly admitted adolescents in the New York City jail system using a validated TBI screening tool. A convenience sample of 300 male and 84 female screenings was examined.

Results: Screening revealed that 50% of male and 49% of female adolescents enter jail with a history of TBI. Incidence of TBI was assessed using patient health records, and revealed an incidence of 3,107 TBI per 100,000 person-years.

Conclusions: Elevated prevalence and incidence of TBI among incarcerated adolescents may relate to criminal justice involvement as well as friction in jail. Given the large representation of violence as a cause of TBI among our patients, we have begun focus groups with them to elicit meaningful strategies for living with and avoiding TBI.

Keywords: Jail; Traumatic brain injury; Violence.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Juvenile Delinquency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • New York City
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prisons
  • Sex Factors